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Not Too Late to Speak classes were conducted in Poland at the University of Third Age, University of Wrocław. A month before the course started, the announcement regarding the course was made. In the announcement, the following information was included: aim of the course, number of hours, length of the course (number of meetings), names of lecturers, Erasmus+ affiliation. The announcement emphasised that the course was designed for people without any English-speaking abilities (A1 level) and that before the course, there will be a placement test. The announcement was hung in the corridor of the U3A, published on the U3A website, and read during the official start of the academic semester at the U3A.
Initially, over 100 seniors declared their willingness to participate in the course. After they were kindly asked to fill in the placement test before the course, some of them resigned claiming that either they do not have time to participate or simply refused to fill in the test. Eventually, only half of the interested participants decided to sit the test. The test was decided to be not only the tool to measure later the progress but also an entry test as some of the seniors that sat the test already participated in the English classes on B1/B2 level and scored, e.g., 27 out of 30 points on the test. These seniors were not accepted in the course due to mainly three reasons: 1) they would not learn anything new during the course; 2) they would take places for other seniors with lower language skills; 3) it was suspected that they might induce resentment in other seniors, dominate the course, and discourage others. Therefore, in the end, two groups were created, with 15 participants in each group (30 participants total; see the attached participant lists). A couple of participants resigned during the course and others took up their places and joined after the first classes.
After the course, during the evaluation, the participants mentioned the following pros:
- the level of the course. Seniors claimed that there were not many courses on the A1 level (or not enough places in such courses) and that even if they were supposed to be on A1 level, they usually omitted the most basic topics, leaving behind persons not knowing English already at the beginning.
- the proposed coursebook. Seniors stated that the provided grammar explanations were clear enough for them to study on their own. They enjoyed exercises, however they clearly preferred the ones that focused on filling the gaps rather than creating their own sentences. They also claimed that colourfulness and playfulness of the book amused them.
- focus on communication. Participants were encouraged by the fact that they were all speaking from the very first class, even if these were basic communicates. Most of them claimed that their reason to start learning English was to communicate with their family, e.g. children that live abroad and have partners from other countries; grandchildren living abroad; or simply grandchildren speaking other languages to whom their grandparents wanted to catch up.
- e-platform and Moodle course. Those seniors that possessed proper technological skills and background claimed that they enjoyed the course as it gave them possibility to listen to native English and to study actively in their own time at home.
Seniors mentioned also the following cons of the course:
- the amount of material. The participants felt that there was too much new information for them to learn in too short time. (The lecturers, who are qualified university lecturers and had previous experience teaching the elderly, would like to notice here that the amount of materials seemed to be adequate. The issue appears to be rooted in the fact that not many of seniors worked with the given materials on their own and without regular repetitions, any amount of materials seems to be too much, especially at the A1 level course).
- the length of the course and lack of continuation. Seniors were discouraged by the fact that the course was a closed entity without any continuation. They felt that more time was necessary for them to master the basics. Seniors also wished to continue the course on the higher levels.
- not enough speaking and listening exercises. Participants felt that they do not need to know how to write or even read in English but they want to communicate quickly and effectively. They felt that speaking and listening exercises were of utmost importance to them and that there were not enough thereof during the course.
- participants with higher levels of English. Even though there was an entry test, it happened that 2-3 participants presented higher English language skills (possibly A2 level). These participants dictated the tempo of the lesson and often dominated the class, as they knew answers before others and did not allow anyone else to speak. Furthermore, the rest of the group stated that their presence discouraged them and made them uncomfortable during lessons. Therefore, it is advised in the future to create more strict entry criteria.
The lecturers would like to mention here one more con that was not mentioned by the participants but appears to be significant to the overall project – the e-platform and Moodle course. During first lesson, we asked participants whether they had computers at home and knew how to use the Internet. Those than had and did know (around half of all participants) were demonstrated how to start an account on the platform and how to use the course. After every lesson, they were encouraged to use the platform and certain exercises from the platform were even demonstrated during the classes. However, at the end of the course, most of the participants stated that they did not use the platform actively or they did not feel encouraged to do so. We suspect that this is not the result of the platform itself but of general lack of technical skills among Polish seniors and their resentment towards new technologies.
Overall, the course was highly valued by the participants. They all expressed their interest in the continuation of the course and wished there were more classes. They also enjoyed the book and the activities. However, perhaps it could be suggested that in the case of seniors, any introduction of new technologies for their own use at home should be proceeded by a longer, separate course that would made them feel familiar with and less scared of the activities designed for them.